Most of the reports on the Ohio State football team list the Buckeyes as missing just four starters from last year’s team that reached a second consecutive BCS National Championship Game.
But those reports are a bit disingenuous because they don’t take into account special teams, where Ohio State will be breaking in a new starter at long snapper.
Those duties were split by the end of last season between two seniors, Dimitrios Makridis and Jackson Haas, with the former working as Ohio State’s punt snapper and Haas the field-goal snapper.
Two walk-ons return to the team looking to fill that role in Jacob McQuaide and Patrick Howe. Expecting to get the first crack is McQuaide, who played in the first seven games of last season before losing most of his short-snapping time to Haas.
Now a sophomore, McQuaide said he’s ready to step up and fill the often overlooked role.
“I feel like last year I got my rookie jitters out, so this year I’m definitely ready to go 100 percent if I beat out Pat,” he said. “It’s still open right now, but I definitely feel like if I were the guy I am completely ready to go.”
McQuaide has been a long snapper since the sixth grade, and the Cincinnati native ended up filling the position while playing tight end at Elder High School. Despite making 10 catches for the Panthers during his senior year, he was not recruited as a scholarship athlete by Division I schools – “I realized I’m not the 6-6, 250 type guy who is going to play tight end at a D-I school,” he said – and instead decided to spurn offers from lower divisions to attend OSU.
“Coming from Elder, we get 11,000 people for a home game every Friday night,” he said. “Playing Division II or III football is a step down from that.”
Having decided to attend school at Ohio State, McQuaide then decided to take the next step. He sent a video of his snapping to the football program, attended a camp and stayed in contact with recruiting assistant Greg Gillum. The Buckeyes liked what they saw enough to invite him onto the team as a freshman walk-on for the 2006 season.
Playing time was hard to get that season with stalwart Drew Norman, known as “Chucky,” serving as the long snapper. Once Norman graduated going into last year, the job was open, especially when the 2006 backup Makridis missed the spring because of back problems.
When the season started, Haas, Makridis and McQuaide all were receiving chances snapping until the halfway point in the season, at which point inconsistency caused the Buckeye staff to reevaluate things. Because Makridis had been the most consistent long snapper and Howe the most consistent on field goals, those two were given the jobs while McQuaide was forced to the sideline. He did not play during the final six games.
“While Jake had done both and done both well, that was the situation we ended up doing,” said staff member Chad Rogosheske, who works with special teams.
Though Howe, a sophomore from Cincinnati rival St. Xavier, and expected walk-on Jeremy LaVoie of Beavercreek will get their chances, it appears the job is McQuaide’s to lose.
“I think they’re both solid, and I think Jake with his experience has a little bit of an edge just because he’s been in games,” Rogosheske said. “That’s obviously to his advantage.”
Whichever gets the job will have big shoes to fill. One-time OSU snapper Kevin Houser has made a career out of snapping for the New Orleans Saints, while Norman and Makridis have been well regarded during their Ohio State careers.
“(Makridis) and Chucky Norman both set the bar pretty high, and Jack actually,” McQuaide said. “Those guys helped me out so much in my development. I just feel like the greatest testament to them I could do is just be the best long snapper in the country.”
In order to win the job, McQuaide said the goal is to be perfect each day on his snaps, which includes putting the ball on punts at the right hip of the punter and on field goals drilling it right at the back knee of the holder.
Ohio State’s long snappers are also responsible for blocking immediately after the snaps. Once that is over, the race down field to try to make the tackle begins, though no Buckeye long snapper made a stop last season.
“We are responsible for our A-gap, our gap right next to us, so you have to be able to snap and then get back and block, then you also have to cover,” said McQuaide, who checks in at 6-2, 219 pounds. “You have to have decent speed. I’m not the fastest guy out there but I try my best to get down there. I’m all effort, at least.”